Aurard leads Northeastern to victory with six-on-four shorthanded goal


Lauren Salemo

Sophomore forward Taze Thompson skates toward the net. Thompson scored her fouth goal of the season in the recent game against UNH.

Amelia Ballingall, deputy sports editor

While Friday’s win over Holy Cross gave Northeastern (25-2-1, 21-2-1 HE) at least a share in the Hockey East regular season title, its Thursday night 4-1 domination over the University of New Hampshire (10-19-0, 8-14-0 HE) secured the runaway for the fourth-straight year. 

Donning pink jerseys for its annual Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer game, Northeastern tipped off the game with a ceremonial puck drop from breast cancer survivor and women’s volleyball head coach Lenika Vazquez while a charity auction for the game-worn jerseys ensued in the lobby of Matthews Arena. 

In the opening seconds of the matchup, the leader in the battle for the puck was unclear, but after a couple shifts of settling onto the ice, momentum shifted firmly in favor of the home team.

“UNH played awesome. They played hard and gave us everything we could handle,” said head coach Dave Flint of his 400th career win. “I like the fact that we had to work tonight. This time of year, every game is going to be difficult — everybody’s coming at you, everybody needs points.”

The Wildcats were able to get a few good chances, including a shot that sent senior goaltender Gwyneth Philips splayed across the ice to make a save less than four minutes in, but the majority of their turnovers came up empty-handed.

Meanwhile, Northeastern began to step up its moves in the offensive zone. Graduate student forward Maureen Murphy and freshman forward Lily Shannon were each able to sneak through the defense single-handedly at different points for a similar shot, but the tight angle left an easy save for senior goalie Nicky Harnett.

Neither side generated much opportunity in the first period, each team’s shot count remaining in the single digits. The puck hovered around the neutral zone for much of the frame with several turnovers in the defensive zones, and there was also a noticeable lack of physicality between the two teams. 

The one penalty of the period came against graduate student forward Chloé Aurard for high-sticking with only 2:25 left on the clock, but UNH was only able to notch a couple shots against the third-ranked penalty-killing team in the country. 

Soon after the Wildcats’ power play expired, so did the period, and the two teams headed to the locker rooms scoreless.

With the tension between the Huskies and the Wildcats ramping up, the ice got heated in the second frame, but Northeastern began to dominate play. 

“I think we focused on simple things and we got together and we said we just needed to play our hockey, our intensity,” Aurard said. “We need to play simple, get pucks behind them, just use our speed because we can be fast.”

At 1:43, a penalty against Northeastern senior forward Katy Knoll was issued for holding, but a post-whistle shove from UNH senior forward Tamara Thierus put her in the box as well.

The four-on-four play proved beneficial for the Huskies, clearing out some of the usual traffic in front of the net. With 37 seconds left on the dueling penalties, senior defender Megan Carter tucked the puck under the crossbar from the edge of the left faceoff circle for her sixth point in five games — and Northeastern’s first of the night. Murphy and junior forward Lily Yovetich were credited with the assists. 

Carter’s goal sent UNH off-kilter almost immediately, with the Wildcats picking up two penalties nearly back to back starting at the five-minute mark.

UNH has one of the lowest-ranked penalty kills in the NCAA, so it was surprising for the Huskies to find themselves being slowly inched out of the offensive zone throughout their four minutes of power play time. 

“[UNH is] typically not an aggressive penalty-killing team, and they came at us, so we were expecting one thing and it took us a few power plays to figure out,” Flint said. “We definitely have to clean it up because at the end of the year, your special teams have to be really good to win championships.”

With about seven and a half minutes left in the period, Aurard nearly sent the Huskies up another point with a shot off the post, but it was the Wildcats who would score next to tie up the game and make it an even match. 

Nearly sixteen minutes into the frame, off a pass from sophomore forward Kira Juodikis, junior forward Brianna Brooks fired a shot toward Philips. The puck came loose behind the netminder and after a scramble in the crease, graduate student forward Emily Pinto nudged it over the line to put her team on the board. 

Northeastern was quick to respond, this time with the first line trio of graduate student forward Alina Müller, Murphy, and Aurard, who made the game-winning goal.

With 2:24 left in the period, Aurard passed the puck through traffic to Müller with Murphy at net as the distraction. Müller immediately rifled the puck back to Aurard at the doorstep and it bounced off her stick and into the net. 

As the middle frame wound down, the aggression between opposing players continued to ramp up. Murphy closed in on Harnett, but her attempt was shut down. However, with support on both sides in the crease, a tussle ensued between Müller and UNH senior defender Rae Breton, and the pair receiveding matching roughing minors. 

Four-on-four play carried into the third period, where each team generated some traction. 

The aggression level had increased noticeably throughout the first 40 minutes of play, but when the puck dropped to start the final frame, the overall manner of play seemed to have reverted to the themes of the first. Early on, there were many defensive turnovers with few viable shots, but the steadily increasing tension turned it into a much different game.

When UNH junior defender Brianna Legros was sent to the box for slashing at 13:30, Northeastern gained the five-on-four advantage once again. 

While the Wildcats were able to successfully kill off the penalty, they were unable to keep that momentum, leaving sophomore forward Taze Thompson the window to score just eight minutes into even strength play. 

After beating out two defenders in the corner boards, Thompson raced toward Harnett and tucked a shot just inside the near post. Sophomore forward Skylar Irving and graduate student forward Mia Brown are credited with the assists. 

When the Wildcats finally regained the zone after a strong series of shots from the Huskies, they made the decision to pull Harnett in favor of the extra skater — a fatal mistake. 

Carter landed herself in the box for tripping at 18:42, sending the game into six-on-four play, but the Huskies were ready to fight. 

Aurard grabbed the puck in the defensive zone, hustling away from Philips’ cage to clear the zone. While initially a defensive play, the speed on Aurard and linemate Müller outpaced the two Wildcats who were hot on their heels. With one defender left between them and the goal, they passed back and forth, but it was Aurard who easily whipped the puck into the net to set the score at 4-1. It was the second time the Müller-Aurard pair had scored that night. 

Graduate student forward Chloé Aurard brings the puck through the neutral zone. Aurard scored twice on Thursday night’s game, including the game-winning goal. (Lauren Salemo)

“We just find each other. We have so much fun together and I think that’s what brings our power duo — like we always call it,” Aurard said. “I think it’s just fun, impassioned, … it’s amazing, I love playing with her.”

With 1:03 left in the game and an impossible mission to catch up to the Huskies, UNH put Harnett back in goal, but they were unable to make any headway despite the five-on-four advantage. 

Northeastern’s next matchup is one of the most anticipated of the year — a Beanpot showdown. 

“We’re excited,” Aurard said. “We take every game one at a time, so this one’s passed. The next game is Beanpot, so now we’re going to reflect on this game tonight, tomorrow and then we’re going to move on to Beanpot right away.”

The Huskies travel to Beanpot host Boston College on Tuesday to take on Boston University for the second time this season. They’ll hit the ice in the Conte Forum when the puck drops at 4 p.m.